MAY ADRALES is a freelance director and teacher based in New York City.  She helmed the world premieres of Vietgone at Manhattan Theatre Club/South Coast Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Seattle Rep; Luce at LCT3, Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them at Actors Theater of Louisville; after all the terrible things I do at Milwaukee Rep; Mary at The Goodman Theatre; In This House at Two River Theater Company; Qui Nguyen’s Five Days Till Saturday (NYU Tisch); Richard Dresser’s Trouble Cometh at San Francisco Playhouse; and  Katori Hall’s Whaddabloodclot!!! at Williamstown Theater Festival.  Upcoming:  Imani Uzuri and Zakiyyah Alexander’s girl shakes loose at Penumbra Theater; Betty Shamieh’s The Strangest at East 4th Theater; and Chisa Hutchinson’s Somebody’s Daughter at Second Stage Theatre.

Adrales is the recipient of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation’s inaugural Denham Fellowship and the Paul Green Emerging Directing Award.  She is a recipient of a TCG New Generations grant.  She has been awarded directing fellowships at New York Theater Workshop,  Women’s Project, SoHo Rep, and The Drama League.  She is a proud Artistic Associate at Milwaukee Rep.  Adrales has directed and taught at NYU, Juilliard, American Conservatory Theater, American Repertory Theater, Fordham University, and Bard College.  She served as a faculty member for The Public Theater’s Shakespeare Lab (2006-2009).  She is on faculty at Einhorn School of Performing Arts at Primary Stages and taught Directing Shakespeare at Brown/Trinity MFA program.  Adrales is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and currently serves on the faculty.  

A first-generation Filipina American, Adrales grew up in southwest Virginia with her three sisters JoAnn, Gina, and Tricia and had a backyard full of chickens, pheasant, and dogs.  Her father, Dr. Mamerto B. Adrales, is a general surgeon and her mother, Jocelyn Divinagracia Adrales, is a nurse.  They established a home and successful family practice in Covington, Virginia.  May is a lover of ice cream and martinis, and she balances this love with a passion for running and marathon racing.   Currently, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband-to-be, architect and theater designer, Brad Kisicki.  

Visit May’s Web site:  

May Adrales gets immersive with SV’s Bob Shuman in a tw0-part interview—Part 2 will be published 3/18.  

Isn’t it easier to deal with a dead playwright? 

It may be easier to work with a dead playwright, but not nearly as gratifying, or as much fun.  I gravitate towards new writers because I thrive from those collaborations.  I love working on a play from the ground up.  And I love the thrill and challenge of trying out choices for the first time.  There is nothing more exhilarating and terrifying than sitting in the audience for a first preview.

What does a typical day look like when you’re in rehearsal or running a show—and what is it like before that, when you are preparing for a play?  

For the last few years, I’ve mainly been in rehearsals for one production while preparing for another at the same time. And more often than not, I’m also doing the groundwork for the production which will come after them.  I do savor the rare moments when I just have the time to meditate and reflect on a play, without having to make hard production decisions. It takes a lot of focus to manage each project successfully.  But I’m at my best when I get at least 5-6 hours of sleep a night and have a nice run first thing in the morning–then I  can welcome the workday with a clear head.  

After the success of Vietgone, why did you decide to do The Strangest, Betty Shamieh’s play inspired by Camus—and how did you become involved?

I have a long history with this play and with Betty.  I’ve admired and supported her work for a long time.  We did a workshop production of the play while she was in residence at Here Arts Center five years ago, and I think it’s one of her strongest works to date.  At this point in time, I want to do plays that are part of a larger resistance to what is happening politically in this country.  This play centers on two Middle Eastern female protagonists and their fierce fight for equality.  It also explains their need to reframe a narrative that has been dominated by colonial power.  Despite the fact that it is painfully difficult to independently produce, I feel it’s the most urgent story I can tell right now. 

Tell us about casting—who are your actors for The Strangest and what did you need to keep in mind while you were making your decisions?

I have the most extraordinary cast.  These are actors whom I have known and admired for a long time. Many of them have done development workshops and readings, including the extraordinary, powerful, and imaginative Jacqueline Antaramian. Roxanna Hope Radja has consistently blown me away in performance.  And now she is doing breathtaking work in rehearsals.   We were so lucky to secure the ever-powerful, yet gentle and sensual Alok Tewari, who did the first workshop production at Here, five years ago.  I was lucky to meet Juri Henley Cohn and Louis Sallan at an audition for a production of Disgraced.  They ultimately were not in that production, but I was so impressed with their talent that I cast them in this without an audition.  The ever-fun, imaginative, and talented Andrew Guilarte had just played the lead for me in a production, and he has returned to The Strangest, after being part of its development. 

Directorially, what are the challenges of working on immersive theatre?

The liveness of immersive theater is the most unpredictable and most influential element.  I think the proximity of the actors to spectators gives a sense of urgency and now-ness, unparalleled in film and TV and even in other proscenium-type houses.  The actors have to step up their games; they are always in close-up and the second they let go of their circumstances, characters, or stakes, the audience knows that–and feels it. 

Most insane problem you’ve encountered as a director in the last year?

Oh … so many problems to choose from … but last September, my schedule was so packed that the only time my boyfriend could propose to me was the night before I went into tech.  Not exactly a problem, but certainly an extraordinary event and circumstance.   He proposed in Central Park, and I had my backpack on filled with script and production notes. 

Thanks so much, May. Looking forward to next week.

Read Part 2 of this interview: 

The Semitic Root presents

The Strangest 

An Immersive Murder Mystery Experience Set in French Algiers

Inspired by Albert Camus’ Classic Novel, The Stranger

 Written by Betty Shamieh

Directed by May Adrales

 March 12 – April 1

Fourth Street Theatre


Regular Price: $25; Premium: $45 (Includes a reserved seat and a signed program)


Press: Hanna Raskin/GOGO Public Relations and Marketing

(c) 2017 by May Adrales (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

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